Albert Speer is one of the most controversial figures in history. His complex personality resulting from a traumatic childhood, combined with a cunning intelligence and tireless work ethic saw Speer rise to become one of the most powerful and prominent figures in the Third Reich. Albert Speer joined the Nazi party on the 1st of March 1931, becoming member number 474 481 . Soon after joining Speer became good friends with Karl Hanke, an essential part of the Nazi propaganda machine. Opportunity and luck can be attributed to Speer’s rise to prominence as Hitler’s ‘First Architect of the Reich’.
Hanke gave Speer the opportunity to redesign Goebbels headquarters in Berlin. Described by Speer as ‘the luckiest turning point in my life’ his color scheme and design proved to be a success for Goebbels and Hitler. From this Speer was given numerous opportunities due to his tireless work effort and architectural designs representing the Nazi ideology. After his success in exploiting the opportunity to design the ‘Victory of Faith’ Nuremburg rally in March 1933, Speer was given the chance to design what he called his ‘masterpiece’, the ‘Cathedral of Light’ 1934 Nuremburg rally.
The worldwide acclaim and propaganda, which stemmed from the rally raised Speer’s prominence both within Germany and throughout the world. His close personal relationship and unlimited access to Hitler raised his status within the party allowing Speer to develop a path which would eventuate in Speer becoming the second most powerful man in Germany. The death of Fritz Todt on February 13th 1942 combined with Speer’s incessant work ethic continued Speer’s within history. Already entrenched into the Nazi war machine, the death of Fritz Todt created a void within the Third Reich, in the form of armaments minister.
Hitler appointed Speer to the position as he felt that he could not only rely on him to do the job but also because he believed that Speer would not betray his trust. In his autobiography Speer describes his role as armaments minister as ‘merely an apolitical technocrat’, entirely focused on his work. An extremely successful minister; by 1944 Speer had increased overall production by up to 300% despite the increased allied bombing raids on German industrial regions. This skyrocketed his reputation among the allied nations as to how despite hugely successful bombing campaigns Speer was able to keep production levels so high.
Many historians credit Speer with prolonging the war for up to 2 years. Though he was successful in his work as armaments minister historians question how much of the work was actually done by Speer, or had already been put in place by Todt before his mysterious death. Much of the debate surrounding Speer’s role and his prominence within the Third Reich has raised questions as to what his true intentions were during the war. The final factor that immortalized Albert Speer in history is his ambition to become a historical figure. At the Nuremburg war trials Speer admitted full responsibility for the actions of the regime during the war.
This included his use of forced labor to increase arms production. Being one of few to cooperate with the prosecution Speer practically guaranteed he would not be executed. By admitting the guilt of the final solution Speer was named as the ‘Good Nazi’ Speer’s subsequent 20 years in Spandau prison and the release of his two autobiographies elevated his status to celebrity. Speer’s ambitious nature was credited with ‘exonerating’ the German people from the guilt of the final solution whilst at the same time raised huge issues of debate among historians as to what Albert Speer had truly known.
Here stood a man with an IQ of 128, claiming that ‘If Hitler had any friends I would certainly be one of them’ , yet retained a ‘lack’ of knowledge about the final solution. Historians such as Van Der Vatt, Schmidt and Goldhagen have attacked Speer claiming that his ‘calculated’ performance at Nuremburg was merely to save his own life and not for the German people as Speer claims. Others such as Sereny claim that Speer’s work ethic and conscience allowed him to not have to think about the guilt caused by the final solution.
Albert Speer’s prominence in history is a result of his role as Hitler’s architect, Minister for Armaments and his performance at the Nuremburg war trials at the conclusion of the Second World War. His personality and seemingly duplicitous character resulted in him achieving power within the Third Reich, extending the duration of the Second World War and exonerating the German people from the guilt of the final solution. This ultimately resulted in Speer becoming immortalized as one of the most controversial and prominent figures of the Third Reich and German history.